Maine Eats -- Boothbay, Wiscasset area

Bet’s Fish Fry, Boothbay Common. I love this place. Limited menu: Fish and Chips, Fish in a Dish (no chips), Fish Sandwich. Cash only. Drinks out of vending machines. What you get: enormous portions of incredibly fresh fish (usually caught that morning), fried to order, served with a choice of dill or tartar sauce. Plenty of picnic tables to sit at. I have never been able to finish a Half Fish in a Dish. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Miss Wiscasset Diner (just south of the intersection between Route 1 and Route 144, also south of Shaw’s). This small diner doesn’t look like much on the outside, I drove past it for years. But it is run by a couple of Southerners and in addition to classic New England diner food they offer several Southern specialties. Everything I have had here (4 visits over two years) has been great. They do a killer fish hash (haddock, potatoes, onions), make terrific biscuits, serve a wonderful biscuits and sausage gravy that I loved every bite of but will probably never order again (a bit too heavy for me, however delicious). I am dying to try their fried chicken sandwich, I have seen it going by and it looked great. Service is very sweet if a tiny bit haphazard. In May their hours are 7 to 2, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but I think they have longer hours and may be open 7 days a week during high season.

Treats, Wiscasset. Treats is a sweet little place up the hill a couple of blocks from Red’s. They have various gourmet items, a nice cheese counter with several local cheeses, a very nice selection of wines. You can get coffee and a scone, croissant, frittata or sandwich.

Would love to hear about other places you have found in this area. I have not reviewed Red’s Eats as I am sadly allergic to shellfish, which never pains me more than when I am in Maine!

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Sorry to hear about your allergy, GretchenS. Yes, Red’s is the motherload of lobster rolls, in my opinion. And they also serve many other items. They do a fine version of fried zucchini, for example, and the fried scallops are also good. Stopped there twice on our most recent trip. We usually stop into Treats for some cookies to take along on our drive…thanks for the report. Have some fond memories of eating out on the deck at Shaw’s in Pemaquid/Damariscotta and watching the lobster boats unload their catch. You can also catch the ferry to Monhegan Island from there. Will try Bet’s Fish Fry at some point.

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Red’s is just a tourist trap at this point. As someone who lived in Maine, and had good friends in Wiscasset who I visited all the time, there are actually much better renditions of the lobster roll, right there in town. My personal favorite was at Sarah’s Cafe, (which you can get in either of the two styles), just a hundred yards south/up the hill. (Also, I have gotten food poisoning from Red’s.)

Of course, it is a tourist trap after all these years, JMF. And a darn good one, too…
By the way, Sarah’s is just across the street.

I may be mistaken that it was at Sarah’s Cafe. Unless they moved to a new location. It has been 7-8 years since I last hung out in Wiscasset, and my memory buffer may be working on a FIFO basis. Heck, It’s hard to realize it’s been almost 8 years since I moved back to NY from Maine. In some ways it feels like yesterday, in others, like it was a different life.

I was up at Booth Bay Hhhhaaarrrrbor many years ago for a wedding. I was shocked to see even the local Mc Donald’s had lobster rolls on the menu.

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While I haven’t had a McD’s lobster roll in around ten years, they were actually pretty good, and at a good price. The ones in my local Hannafords supermarket were great. large, inexpensive, and very fresh.

Summer of 2008 was THE year for lobster eaters. Lobster was so cheap that it was cheaper than baloney in the supermarkets, and you could get them for 1-2 for a buck off the boats. I told friends who visited that lobsters were on me, and steaks were on them. They thought they were getting the better end of the deal. ;-)>

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I purchased a lobster roll in Brookline MA on Harvard St in Coolidge Corner at a McDonald’s that is long since gone…in 1990. Lobster rolls have been a seasonal item at some McD’s locations for, well, a long time.

Back then, it was fine. Haven’t tried one since.

So when is the last time you ate at Reds…JMF? Is your judgement it’s a tourist trap recent experience?

Agreed. We spent a long weekend in Maine a couple of summers ago and I ate five or six lobster rolls over the course of the trip - Red’s was by far the least interesting. They do load you up on lobster meat, but in my experience the meat was a bit tough and bland (overcooked and not seasoned enough, presumably), and you had to add butter or mayonnaise yourself, which meant that you couldn’t really get your preferred dressing fully mixed into the meat. The bread was completely lackluster and not buttered/griddled/toasted. Meh. I didn’t have another roll in Wiscasset but I had excellent renditions at the Bite into Maine food truck (in the park by the Portland head lighthouse) and especially at Libby’s Market in Brunswick. Libby’s is kind of out of the way unless you are taking a trip up highway 1, but well worth the drive IMO.

Those were exactly my thoughts. Plus the lobster meat is cold, not warm. Cold like too cold, right out of the fridge. I’m ok with that if it is the lobster salad style, but not if it’s plain meat, or melted butter style, then I want it warm, or even hot.

Also the 40 minute to well over an hour wait can be ridiculous, especially when you are trying to do a long drive up the coast.

What annoys me the most at red’s is the high cost compared to quality. It is one of, if not the, most expensive lobster roll I have seen. And the price of lobster has averaged about the same for around two decades, but even in 2008 with the lobster glut due to the Icelandic bank failure, when they were really cheap, they still charged the same high price. I hear they are charging $26.50 right now. (They raise and lower the price from a low of around $22 and up.)

Last time I ate at Red’s was in 2014 because friends insisted, as we were driving up the coast on a working vacation.

Exactly my experience as well. I like both the butter and mayo styles, but butter style HAS to be at least warm. And either way, I want the bread buttered and griddled.

The friendly staff at Red’s will take any special requests when you order. They have not disappointed us over the years. And despite the wait, the line moves. They have their system down pretty well. We were second on line on one opening day last week and got to speak with the friendly owner as she opened the shutters to the kitchen. Minutes later the line spread down the street…

We actually prefer Sprague’s - just across the street with lovely seating, parking, and no line! Other favorites in the area include the Thistle Inn and the Boat House Bistro (probably wouldn’t choose it in Boston, but it’s a great location and the food isn’t bad).

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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